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Roche’s Breast-Cancer Drug Sales Surge, Led by Perjeta

Roche Holding AG’s sales of breast-cancer medicines grew 17 percent in the first quarter as new drugs beat analysts’ estimates, eclipsing a decline in overall revenue.

Two medicines cleared for sale last year in the U.S., Perjeta and Kadcyla, led the gain measured at constant exchange rates, the Basel, Switzerland-based drugmaker said today. Sales overall were 11.5 billion Swiss francs ($13.1 billion), in line with the average of four estimates compiled by Bloomberg.

The Swiss company, the world’s biggest maker of cancer medicines, recorded a “strong contribution of Kadcyla and Perjeta,” Andrew Baum, an analyst at Citigroup Inc. in London, wrote in a note to clients.

Sales of Perjeta reached 178 million francs in the quarter, beating analysts’ estimates of 154.2 million francs. Kadcyla’s revenue was 102 million francs, more than the 98 million francs analysts had forecast.

Roche shares closed down 0.4 percent to 253.30 francs in Zurich trading today, after gaining as much as 1.8 percent.

In addition to Kadcyla and Perjeta for breast cancer, U.S. regulators last year approved Roche’s Gazyva for leukemia.

Cancer Focus

Roche remains on the look-out for deals to complement the company’s businesses in pharmaceuticals and diagnostics, both in terms of products and technologies, Chief Executive Officer Severin Schwan told reporters today.

The company’s M&A strategy “is not changing,” he said on a conference call. “We will continue to focus on bolt-on acquisitions.”

Roche said today it remains committed to developing new treatments for lung cancer after a late-stage trial of onartuzumab, being tested in people with a specific kind of the disease, was stopped because it wasn’t effective enough. Another potential lung cancer treatment, alectinib, will begin a late-stage trial this year, it said.

The Swiss drugmaker plans to file Avastin in cervical cancer with authorities in the U.S. and Europe later this year, Schwan told reporters.

As of yesterday, Roche shares had returned 13 percent in the past year including reinvested dividends, compared with 11 percent for the Bloomberg Europe Pharmaceutical Index.

The company reiterated today its forecast that revenue this year will rise by a low- to mid-single-digit percentage at constant exchange rates and earnings per share will increase at a faster pace than sales.

Roche doesn’t provide earnings for the first quarter.

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